All it takes is a little bit of training and cooperation to form a neighborhood watch. Neighborhood watches are community organizations made up of groups of citizens who cooperate with police to prevent crimes in their neighborhoods.
1st Sgt. Ruben Castilla with the Prince William County Police Department said there are more than 400 neighborhood watch programs in the county, and the department is always looking to establish more. “It’s a way for communities and the Police Department to get together to fight crime and show unity. They’re our eyes and ears in the community.”
Castilla said training to form a neighborhood watch takes about an hour. The watches are formed with resident groups interested in making their communities safer and having a positive interaction with Police.
Once the neighborhood watch is formed, the group is assigned a crime prevention officer to assist with community issues and answer any questions the group might have. They also get a neighborhood watch sign to place in their community to let would-be criminals know that people are watching.
Neighborhood watch members help their communities simply by observing and being aware of what’s going on in their neighborhoods, Castilla said. “We encourage them to walk. We encourage driving. The main thing we teach people is never approach someone who they might think is doing something suspicious. We tell them to observe, call the police and let us handle it.”
Neighborhood watches can be formed in entire communities or street-by-street. All that’s needed is a few residents who are interested in forming one. “People just need to get several of their neighbors interested in the program; and then once they have them, they can call the Crime Prevention Unit at 703-792-7270,” said Castilla.